Fast and Furious Denials

October 7th, 2011 by Lee Eldridge

I have typically kept my political writing aimed at the economy and related issues. But today I feel compelled to discuss a story that has been very slow to break. Operation Fast and Furious. I had come to the conclusion long ago that Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama were aware of this program from the start. I had also come to the conclusion that the mainstream media were going to sweep this story under the rug. That’s all beginning to change due to CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson.

If you haven’t followed this story, I don’t blame you. You’ve probably seen the headlines about the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry who had been killed by guns that had been allowed to walk as part of the ATF’s Fast and Furious operation. Let’s start with a little background and  a few terms.

ATF: The ATF is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In 2003 it was transferred under the Homeland Security bill to the Department of Justice. The DoJ is lead by attorney general Eric Holder. (You can read the ATF’s mission here.)

Project Gunrunner: You’ll see comments about this project in the news. This is the ATF’s program dating back to 2005. The program is intended to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico, in an attempt to deprive the Mexican drug cartels of weapons. (Read more on Wikipedia or directly from the ATF.)

Operation Fast and Furious: A sting operation run by the ATF beginning in 2009 as part of Project Gunrunner. The stated purpose of the operation was to permit otherwise-suspected straw purchasers to complete the weapon’s purchase and transit to Mexico, in order to build a bigger case against Mexican criminal organizations suspected of being the ultimate buyer. (Read more on Wikipedia.)

Straw Purchase: A straw purchase is any purchase wherein the purchaser knowingly acquires an item or service for someone who is, for whatever reason, unable to purchase the item or service himself. This term can be applied to any such purchase, but it is most widely used in relation to the sale of firearms, especially in United States federal gun laws.

Gun Walking: Allowing guns to be transferred to suspected arms traffickers. This is the most controversial part of Fast and Furious.

It is the stated position of the DoJ that they do not allow guns to walk, despite testimony from ATF agents to the contrary. Here is testimony from former ATF Special Agent William Newell where he continues to deny that it was policy to allow guns to walk into Mexico:

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Here’s testimony from ATF agent John Dodson who says that it was the policy under Fast and Furious to allow guns to walk:

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And from CBS News:

Surveillance video obtained by CBS News shows suspected drug cartel suppliers carrying boxes of weapons to their cars at a Phoenix gun shop. The long boxes shown in the video being loaded in were AK-47-type assault rifles.

So it turns out ATF not only allowed it – they videotaped it.

More from Sharyl Attkisson and CBS in a moment.

Who Knew What and When?

The investigation from Congress has been lead by Darrell Issa (R), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. You may have seen this exchange where he asks attorney general Eric Holder when he first learned about Fast and Furious, and Holder’s response that he “…probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”

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But now that new documents have surfaced revealing that Holder had been continually briefed on Fast and Furious, the administration now says that Holder misunderstood the question. If you watch the video (above), it’s difficult to believe that he misunderstood the question. And in the video below, we see top DoJ officials discussing gun walking. Here’s more from CBS News and the released documents:

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At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that I had come to the conclusion long ago that Holder and Obama were aware of this program from the start. Though they never mention it by name, they have talked around the edges of this program.

In 2009, the President explains how he has asked Holder to do a “complete review” of current gun enforcement operations during a joint press conference with Mexico’s President Calderon. He even mentions gun tracing, a key element of Fast and Furious, in this video:

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Here is Deputy Attorney General David Ogden in March of 2009, who talks about new efforts from the ATF and gun tracing. This is right around the time that Operation Fast and Furious was launched:

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It’s not proof, but it’s common sense. This was a big and important operation to the ATF, the DoJ and the White House. They all were talking about this “new” operation. They just never mentioned it by name.

Bullying the Media

In an interesting twist this week, Sharyl Attkisson was on the Laura Ingraham Show, and revealed that she had been “yelled” at by DoJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler and that White House associate communications director Eric Schultz “literally screamed at me” over her reporting on Fast and Furious. She was told that she’s not reasonable like other members of the media such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the LA Times. She explains that she was told that she’s “the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.” This is about ten minutes long, but very interesting:

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Bush Did It Too!

We are also starting to learn that under Bush’s DoJ that a program called Operation Wide Receiver may also have allowed guns to walk into Mexico.

This is a legitimate story despite claims from Team Obama to the contrary. It appears that the Attorney General has lied to Congress. Thousands of guns have been allowed to walk into Mexico. And it will be interesting to see who takes the fall as more information is exposed. It sounds like CBS and Attkisson have even more information to come, provided that CBS doesn’t shut down the investigation first. They wouldn’t want to be seen as unreasonable by the administration, would they? Stay tuned.

UPDATE (9:40 am, 10-7-11): I had meant to include this earlier. In April of 2009, Eric Holder visited Mexico and spoke about operations to limit gun trafficking to Mexico (see full text here):

The topic that has been addressed over the past two days could not be more important – the development of an arms trafficking prosecution and enforcement strategy on both sides of the border.

I would like to thank the Mexican and U.S. experts who have worked so hard on this issue. On our side, Secretary Napolitano and I are committed to putting the resources in place to increase our attack on arms trafficking into Mexico.

Last week, our administration launched a major new effort to break the backs of the cartels. My department is committing 100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest border in the next 100 days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner, DEA is adding 16 new positions on the border, as well as mobile enforcement teams, and the FBI is creating a new intelligence group focusing on kidnapping and extortion. DHS is making similar commitments, as Secretary Napolitano will detail.

Does this sound like an attorney general who would not have been briefed about Operation Fast and Furious, which coincidentally, had just been launched by the ATF? That would be difficult to believe. (Note: I added the bold for emphasis.)

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